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Seaver W. Leslie: Thinking of Other Things (1972)

" … depending upon what I choose."

I might have already established that Success probably doesn't quite qualify as a thing but more likely exists as a feeling. However, we might best recognize it as a set of criteria, which we used to call “ success factors “ in project work.” Success Factors held the criteria upon which, ideally, any objective observer might determine whether the project had delivered upon its promises. These were not precisely the promises but more the outward signs of inward conditions. These criteria often contradict themselves, so some might become mutually exclusive. In those cases, it became a matter of judgment and perhaps even politics as to whether intentions had been satisfied. Success would often, perhaps even always, come down to a generous judgment that "good enough" had resulted. Sometimes, Success would come as an acknowledgment that no amount of continuing effort would likely improve the result enough to prove worth that additional effort. Then, Success might come as acquiescence, however different from original intentions, a divorce with ramifications.

In addition to the feeling aspect of Success assessment, there's often also a systems aspect.
Within this perspective, Success might well mean different things to different constituents. Every result features some community around it. Even personal goals easily impact others. One's success might well feel like a failure to others. The systems view attempts to consider other than merely personal perspectives. Even avowed libertarians live within nested systems such that their decisions, their choices, might reverberate far beyond their own front doors. The systems thinker will consider these diverse perspectives, attempting to gain understanding and appreciation. The choices to satisfy any broader perspectives often remain optional. My point in bringing up this broader aspect of Success isn't to insist that one consider the most expansive possible aspects of such choices but merely to remind myself how permeable of a bubble I inhabit. No success exists as an island, not even as a decent isthmus. There's always, always, always something else connected.

I propose a slight change in spelling from Success to Syccess to acknowledge this broader systems aspect of success assessment. Often, I encounter an 'as long as I have the hood open' option when choosing my success criteria. I can hold the boundary, inevitably imaginary, very close to the source, or I can perceive it more expansively, under the notion that I hold a meta objective to at least try to spread good results. I might decide only to shovel snow up to my neighbors’ property line, or I might choose to shovel that extra fifty feet to the corner of the block, under the notion that I'm already out shoveling and it's a small thing for me to extend the boundary a little bit. Call it a good neighbor move, one with the potential to add to the net neighborhood civility quotient, but definitely not specifically required. If I’m not careful, I can get myself tangled around my own axle by embedding too much extra into the system's Syccess criteria, but such fiddling with boundaries to invent opportunities seems inherent to the spirit of Syccess assessment.

As a systems thinker, I usually try to see beyond my current box. I am not always or even usually successful. I am sometimes accused of overthinking because I can so quickly transform a straightforward something into more of a deal than some of my constituencies really wanted. It's often a delicate operation and balance, easily disrupted by clumsy or misguided intentions. Sometimes, the goal is just the goal. Sometimes, though, it represents an opportunity to also think about something else and broaden my influence. When this systems approach works, I share that sublime feeling that might have otherwise only visited me. Every success also carries the possibility of becoming a Syccess, too, depending on what I do—ultimately, on what I choose.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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